As most of you already know, on Novemeber 5th, 2007 the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike after being unable to come to a contract agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Today, we are entering the third month of the strike. The consequences of the strike have already been noticeable to the public. As you know, late-night telelvision has been off the air until this week, and most scripted programs ran out of episodes leading up to the holidays. But while you may be able to live without a few choice programs as we enter the new year, I think it’s important that you realize that there is a much more important loss in this strike.Today, my office, a post production house based in Manhattan, laid off at least 20 employees. This was round 2 of strike layoffs, the first being 16 employees a month ago. Thankfully, I dodged a bullet and remain employed. By no means is this the worst casualty of the strike so far, nor is it even close to the kind of downsizing that has plagued many other industries, but of course, I can only speak for what is happening around me.
Since the strike began I have sided with the writers. I continue to stand with them as I truly believe that what they are fighting for is good for this business. Over the past few decades the entertainment industry has spun out of control for a number of reasons that are not the focus of this particular posting. Suffice it to say that for some time contracts have been stretched and bent, and now they have finally reached a breaking point. The problems are not exclusive to the writers, it just so happens that their contract was up before the other unions.
In any event, I am not a guild or union member.
In fact, no union covers what I do. So at the end of the day, employed or not, I will not see a benefit from this strike (unless of course I start selling screenplays, in which case my tune may change).
Around the country, countless numbers of my colleagues have been laid off since the strike began. We’re talking thousands of people. It’s a hard time right now, and a very emotional one at that. While the writers may be fighting the good fight the rest of us go to work each day and wonder if we’ll have anything to do, or worse, if we’ll be asked to come to work the next day. As long as this continues, there is no question that more people will be fired. You can only hold onto people for so long before the company as a whole begins to suffer. So do I want the writers to stick it out until they get what they need? Of course. Then again, when the axe bears down on me, I wonder how I will feel.
When I came into work at midnight tonight, the mood was that of jovial gloom. 20 of our coworkers, our friends, had been asked to leave effective immediately (there was no notice since we are employed at-will). The head of the company started pulling people into his office in the late afternoon and didn’t leave until close to 10:30pm, during which time, I’m told, people shifted around in fear that they might be next. But once the dust settled, those who were still around when I got in couldn’t help but share in relief that we remain employed in an industry that is caught in a dark time. For now, we can rest easy. But it only takes one look in our quiet machine room (usually teeming with people around the clock, all fighting to get into a deck so they can finish a particular job in time) to know that unless the work starts pouring in again that we will have to weather at least one more shit-storm.
Here’s to hoping 2008 rocks and rolls. No matter what happens, we can make it a great one.
P.S. I was going to post a review of Atonement, but believe it or not, writing about the strike was less depressing. Good thing awards season will be canceled to avoid this movie getting anything. What a snooze-fest!